Summer health: Ways to get set for summer
For many, summer is a time of golden opportunity. It’s a chance to spend more time outdoors, do more exercise or prepare for a family holiday. However, increasingly hotter summers and all the fun that comes with them, can present some challenges for you and your family’s health and wellbeing. Here’s a guide on what to bear in mind…
1. Stay hydrated
The human body is 60% water, so staying well hydrated is vital. The average adult woman is advised to drink around 2.7 litres of water per day, a man a litre more and a four-year-old child needs around 1.1 litres a day. On hot days, stock up on water-rich foods such as cucumber, tomatoes and strawberries to keep family hydration levels up.
Dehydration puts people at risk of heat exhaustion, the signs of which include thirst, dizziness, nausea, excessive sweating and cramps. Anyone affected must be cooled down and rehydrated. If there’s no recovery within 30 minutes it could indicate heatstroke, which can cause seizures and requires urgent medical attention.
2. Be active safely
Longer days and warmer climes may inspire a desire for activity but it is worth planning ahead, says Louis Wicking, a Senior Physiotherapist at Benenden Hospital. “If you’re an exercise rookie, beware of the boom-bust mentality,” he says. “To avoid burnout and harm, it’s important to set your goals before you start and then pace yourself to get there.” Louis suggests identifying an aim – it may be running 5K, achieving a target weight or the ability to walk the dog around the park non-stop. “By setting mini-goals, steadily building on progress, everything is achievable,” he says.
To foster connection as well as motivation, he encourages joining community groups, such as local parkruns (parkrun.org. uk). “It’s about much more than exercise,” says Louis. “It’s good for mental health too.” A specialist in musculoskeletal issues, Louis cautions against “going too hard too fast” to avoid injury. Routine strains and sprains normally respond well to resting and massage, but if pain persists specialist advice should be sought.
3. Prepare for overseas travel
Depending on your destination, check current health risks and prepare in advance in terms of recommended vaccinations. As well as packing plenty of sunscreen, insect repellent and even mosquito nets, consider taking an antiseptic to keep any cuts or bites clean.
4. Be aware of seasonal allergies
For 20% of people in Britain, hay fever triggers seasonal bouts of sneezing and sniffing, coughing and wheezing. Otherwise known as rhinitis, it is a common allergic reaction to plant pollens in the air. Summer weather reports often give a pollen count, allowing people with seasonal allergies to take protective measures, such as staying indoors, shutting windows and wearing a mask in windy weather.
A range of allergies can cause rhinitis, and persistent symptoms that lead to sleeping problems or interrupt normal activity should be referred to a GP.
5. Protect yourself from the sun
Sunlight nurtures good health and wellbeing, generating vitamin D, strengthening bones, promoting sleep and improving mood. But too much exposure can be harmful. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK and preventing it means wearing ultraviolet (UV) protection in the sun and avoiding the midday sun.
The risks of sunlight exposure are higher for younger people. Babies should stay in the shade, while older kids/ young adults should wear a sun hat and UV-resistant clothing as well as high-factor sunscreen. Sunscreen offering a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 with broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection is recommended to minimise the risk of damaging skin. Always check the expiry date, don’t skimp and ensure you reapply frequently. While some makeup and moisturisers do contain SPF, for better protection sun cream is recommended.
6. Treating stings and bites
Bees and wasps, spiders, horseflies and midges can deliver painful stings and bites that might cause local itching or swelling. After removing any obvious sting, routine treatment involves a soapy wash, cold compress or limb elevation and taking an antihistamine tablet or applying antihistamine cream. In rare cases there can be an infection or allergic reaction when medical help is required.
Tick bites are on the rise across the UK. To minimise the risk of picking up a tick, apply insect repellent and stick to paths in the countryside. Wear long sleeve tops, full-length trousers and socks, and tuck everything in. After a walk in a high-risk area, check yourself and others for ticks and remove them carefully using fine tweezers or a special tick-removing tool. And don’t forget to check your dog too! In rare cases a tick bite can transmit Lyme disease, a bacterial infection which left untreated can lead to joint inflammation and neurological problems. Symptoms may include a circular or oval rash around the bite site and flu-like feelings. It is advised to seek medical treatment.
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